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Lost in the City of Light: Dystopia and Utopia in the Wake of Haussmann’s Paris


In the mid–nineteenth century, as Georges-Éugene Haussmann ruthlessly pursued his imperial mandate to modernize the city of Paris, a pair of authors worked to locate and interpret order in the cultural and architectural transformations taking place all around them. The products of their intellectual labors were two volumes of speculative fiction that explained and challenged the present by imagining the future of their beloved city: Paris in the Twentieth Century, the dystopian “lost novel” of Jules Verne, and Paris in the Year 2000, the radiantly optimistic but final work of Dr. Tony Moilin. The two books are in many ways opposites of one another, but they both reveal the power of the utopian imagination to shine critical, illuminating light on the buildings, squares, and boulevards of the real, if ever shifting and emerging, human city.

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